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Friday, February 1, 2013
U-M, OSU recruiting rivalry goes South

By Tom VanHaaren

The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry has picked up steam since Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke were hired. The subtle shots of calling the Buckeyes “Ohio” and Meyer and his staff referring to Michigan only as “that school up north” are alive and well.

It is still early in the process, but of the 67 offers Michigan has extended, 47 of those prospects also hold offers from Ohio State. The two schools won't be in direct competition for every single target, but having both names pop up so often has the schools in the conversation.

The rivalry has always been present in the hometown states, but it seems as though both schools are playing a real life game of Risk, invading different territories and waiting for the opponent’s next roll of the dice.

Ohio State has made it apparent that it will recruit the top players in the state of Michigan, and vice versa. Buckeyes assistant coach Kerry Coombs tweeted as much, making his followers aware of the intention.

"Consider flag cemented in TSUN. Grand Rapids, Detroit vying for name change to North Columbus. Unbelievable reception from both towns," he tweeted recently.

That is partially the reason for one of Michigan's top 2014 prospects, Damon Webb (Detroit/Cass Tech), choosing Ohio State.

"It was coaching, academics and winning tradition," he said. "But Coach Coombs came up to Cass every other week to see me, too."

Ohio State and Michigan have both traded blows by landing a top 2014 prospect from the opposing state, but the battle might start to expand past the Midwest. With Meyer's ties to the South from his days in Florida, the emphasis in the 2014 class for the Buckeyes so far has been in Georgia and Florida.

The Buckeyes already have offered 32 prospects in Florida and Georgia for the 2014 class compared to 13 offers in Ohio and Michigan. Conversely, Michigan has offered eight prospects in Georgia and Florida compared to 10 in Ohio and Michigan.

It's no surprise that those southern states are a main focus for the two powerhouses. Georgia and Florida are home to 76 prospects within the ESPN Watch List compared to just 21 in Ohio and Michigan.

Defensive end Lorenzo Carter is one of three Georgia prospects who has both a Michigan and Ohio State offer. Carter is already one of the more sought-after prospects in the country, and he says he understands why the two northern schools are going after him and his peers.

"If I was Michigan or Ohio State I would target Georgia prospects. They have a good chance with some of us," he said. "They're such storied programs that even down here in the South we still hear a lot about them. I know that I'm going to look at both schools and I'm not the only one."

Carter believes that all that needs to happen for either school is to land one of the major players in the Peach State and a few more might follow. That’s easier said than done, though. Pulling kids from the South is a difficult task in itself, but even more difficult when it's a top national prospect.

This might be where Ohio State has the advantage. With Meyer's time spent at the University of Florida not to mention his two national championships, he is more well known there than the Michigan coaches. Prospects in the South have been excited about Meyer at Ohio State, and there has been a buzz as of late with Meyer recruiting the area so hard.

"That's what really opened my eyes and made me look at [Ohio State]," Carter said. "But for some people down here they're just Ohio State fans."

That's an obstacle for Michigan to overcome, but it hasn't stopped the Wolverines from going after top prospects in other parts of the country and it won't stop them there either. The two rivals will always be in competition on the recruiting trail, and the 2014 class is shaping up to be another epic battle.